The book of Hebrews weaves a tapestry of exhortations for believers between passages on the fulfillment of Old Covenant types and shadows by our Lord in the New Covenant. While there are certainly individual warnings and exhortations, there are a number specifically applying to the community of God’s people.
One example of this occurs in Hebrews 3:13, 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Not to be quickly dismissed, the conjunction “but” links this verse with the one immediately preceeding it, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”
As seen in the opening of verse 13, what follows is an exhortation. This word, parakaleo, may also be translated beseech, or more clearly to strongly encourage, literally “you-be-beside-calling” or more personally, we might even say “me-beside-you-calling.” It carries with it, rather obviously, an implied communication between two parties, which becomes clearly stated with the phrase that follows, one another. While not the more familiar Greek word, allelon, translated one another, it nevertheless carries with it the same significance. When combined with our previous word, we arrive at a command for mutual admonishment. In case there would be any question as to the frequency of this exhortation, our Lord provides the parameters, every day.
Summarizing this verse so far, we have
Who: One Another
Now, we move on to the “why” or the purpose of the exhortation, an application for the doctrine of one-anothering, “that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” As the author directs his command to his audience, we find there are three key words in this phrase: hardened, deceitfulness, and sin.
The first, hardened, refers to the condition of the heart and may well be translated as stubborn or obstinate. This is the second of three times that this word occurs in this chapter of Hebrews. The first and third uses are in reference to the Israelites in the wilderness who, “hardened their hearts”. It is safe to say that these two additional uses provide the bookends for the meaning of the warning in our verse, which clearly warns the reader to guard against the hardening of the heart by holding up the example of the Wilderness Generation. Recall from above that verse 12, linked to this one, references an evil, unbelieving heart, which is the completion of the hardening process.
Second, deceitfulness. While this particular word is not used often in the New Testament, interestingly it occurs in the parable of the four soils, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22 Used more generally here, and not merely as an effect of riches, it carries the idea of seduction. In other words, tempting by way of deception or lies; promising a desire that cannot be delivered unto satisfaction.
Which brings us to the final word, sin. The principal actor in the aforementioned deception and the root cause of the hardness of the heart. Sin. We’ve become so accustomed to hearing the word that it’s likely lost its effectiveness. Generally summarized by missing the mark or falling short, these too fail to convey the weight of what this word means.
Sin is nothing less than rebellion against the Almighty God.
Recall again that the bookends for this passage is the Wilderness Generation, which is specifically said to be in rebellion against God. Turning to a general definition of rebellion we find it meaning, “an act of violent or open resistance to an established ruler.” When we sin, we are literally defying the authority of God. If we are to grasp the weight of what sin means, we must begin here.
Like a lump of clay in the hot sun, sin hardens the heart through seductive deception that appeals to our flesh but simply cannot deliver on what it promises. Graciously, in this passage our Lord provides a remedy against the hardness of heart brought about by the deceitfulness of sin and it is found in the one-anothering of mutual encouragement…daily.
Perhaps one of the reasons why professing Christians appear so weak and holiness, even a desire for holiness, is so lacking is that we have failed to obey the commands of one-anothering on a daily basis. We have become so accustomed to superficial, once-a-week encounters that we are missing out on one of the principal remedies against sin and one of the primary tools for growing in our walk with God.
Daily encouragement from fellow believers.